Report: Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Industries Prioritized Global Talent Mobility to Overcome Pandemic Challenges

Racing for a Vaccine, Pharmaceutical/Life Sciences Industry Provides Compelling Case Study for Governments to Support the Mobility of Specialized Workers

The global talent shortage has almost doubled over the past decade, forcing many businesses to adapt their hiring tactics continuously. When no local workers are available to hire, companies must look globally for high-skilled talent to fill vacant positions.

Even before the pandemic, countries were increasingly enacting more restrictive immigration policies, and employers across the globe had difficulty recruiting and retaining talent. As COVID-19 rapidly spread in early 2020, the cross-border flow of a high-skilled workforce
virtually ground to a halt.

Accessing and moving global talent to where jobs demand is a core factor in driving economic growth and job creation. Governments with immigration policies that facilitate global talent mobility better position their businesses, workforces, and economies to compete in the global marketplace.

The pandemic and the restricted movement of a global workforce have affected many industries and economies. But the effect the pandemic has had on the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries provides a highly relevant case study of one sector’s ability to access
high-skilled talent needed to keep the economy going and power recovery.

Worldwide ERC® and the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) have released new research that illustrates the importance of cross-border relocations to fill local high-skilled workforce gaps, identify specific skills that are difficult to source in different regions, and highlight government policies that have made workforce mobility more challenging. Finding High-Skilled Talent in a Global Pandemic: Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Industry Access to the Global Workforce is based on the participation of 153 Chief Human Resources Officers, HR Directors, and other senior HR leaders in the pharmaceutical and life science industries who have a direct role in their organization’s global talent strategies.

“Even before the pandemic, we knew that all industries were competing for the best talent in artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, engineering, chemistry, and other skills such as the ability to negotiate, collaborate, and communicate both across teams, and across borders,” said Worldwide ERC® President & CEO Lynn Shotwell. “Governments must participate in removing or minimizing the obstacles to global talent mobility to allow companies to better position their businesses, their workforces, and their economies to compete in the worldwide marketplace.”

Global mobility challenges began pre-pandemic

Currently, only 3% of companies are finding sufficient local talent to meet their needs, and 66% of companies will need to relocate staff and new hires to meet needs. Even before the pandemic began, it was estimated that the international skills shortage could result in more than $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenue. This talent shortage was especially rattling the US tech sector, which expected to lose out on nearly $162 billion worth of revenue unless it found top tech skilled employees.

Respondents to Worldwide ERC®’s survey reported that before the urgency demanded by the pandemic, their organizations used cross-border relocations to facilitate their business activities and keep their operations running as smoothly as possible. Before the pandemic slowed global mobility, all respondents had experience transferring employees to all regions of the globe, mainly to recruit top global talent or fill local skills gaps.
Pandemic-era challenges have changed access to global talent.

The survey found that the top priority for pharmaceutical and life science companies is to recruit top talent regardless of origin because the industry relies on a high volume of international transfers to move skills to the work. This is not the only industry that relies on global talent — companies across all sectors need access to global talent to operate international facilities that solve global challenges.

The most significant obstacles to global workforce mobility have been visa and immigration processes. Governments should create safe pathways to talent but are all too often creating obstacles to the cross-border movement of talent.

Survey participants ranked visa and immigration processing (50%) as the leading issue, followed by local registration and social services (44%), then border closures or lack of flights (43%). To resolve these matters, the vast majority (91%) of organizational leadership teams continue to hold discussions and cooperate with government representatives to overcome hurdles.

Cross-border immigration is crucial for success

Although Worldwide ERC®’s research looked specifically at the experience of pharmaceutical and life sciences companies in their effort to find highly skilled talent, the results of the study can be applied to any industry.

“The findings of this research highlight the economic impact that restrictive migration policies have on businesses, but also on jobs,” said IOE Secretary-General Roberto Suárez Santos. “Many industries today, not only the pharmaceutical and life sciences sector, need access to global talent to operate the international facilities that solve global challenges.”

There is a global need for specific expertise, which is in high demand, particularly during a worldwide pandemic. Highly skilled, cross-border immigration is a crucial piece of almost every industry’s talent strategies—whether to expand their business; invest in new markets and regions; research new products; optimize distribution systems for vital supplies, or other goals.

As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the support and cooperation of government agencies will be vital to reduce or resolve the challenges that hinder cross-border relocations.

Read the full report, Finding High-Skilled Talent in a Global Pandemic: Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Industry Access to the Global Workforce

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